Towns along a 90-mile stretch of Route 66 in northern Illinois offer a lot during Saturday’s Route 66 Red Carpet Corridor Festival, but Wilmington’s seems especially enticing.
Not only does that city’s Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie offer the chance of seeing the famous Smokey Bear hot-air balloon and newborn bison, but the new owners of the Launching Pad Drive-In restaurant have a slew of activities planned.
Tully Garrett and Holly Barker, who last fall bought the long-closed Route 66 restaurant that’s most famous for its Gemini Giant fiberglass figure, on Saturday will offer snacks, drinks, face painting, radio interviews, a ham-radio setup and Gemini Giant bobblehead dolls for sale. The restaurant’s gift shop, welcome center and museum also will be open that day.
Midewin will host the 97-foot-tall Smokey Bear balloon on Saturday. The balloon has been a fixture at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta for about 25 years. Also, the preserve’s bison herd began calviing several weeks ago, and park officials said festival attendees shouldn’t be surprised to see more newborn bison on Saturday.
Other upcoming highlights from towns along the Red Carpet Corridor. Many of the towns also will offer commemorative giveaways. For more information, go here.
Joliet: The Joliet Area Historical Museum will offer free admission throughout the day, and it also will run a pop-up stand at the Old Joliet Prison. Joliet Raceway will offer a Race Your Ride event at the racetrack.
Elwood: Elwood Village Hall will be the center of activity in a city that offers original Route 66 pavement, antique tractors and the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery.
Wilmington: In addition to the previously mentioned events, Wilmington will host a flea market, live entertainment, a laughing baby contest, a children’s Hula contest, a hound-dog contest and a dance performance.
Braidwood: It will host live music near the Braidwood Area Historical Society museum, barbecue with Brother George’s BBQ, baked goods and craft display. The Polk-a-Dot restaurant also will host a car show.
Godley: Near the Route 66 Mining Museum will be a disc jockey and a Wagging Tails pet-rescue booth.
Braceville: At the village hall will be baked goods by the United Methodist Church and a Junk-in-the-Trunk sale.
Gardner: You can meet the mayor at the town’s historic two-cell jail. The Gardner Lions Club will serve root beer floats in the historic Diner Car. The town also will host a car show, a Rock-a-thon at the gazebo and more.
Dwight: It will host the seventh annual Smoke-Out BBQ Contest and Springfest. You can meet the “Texaco Man” at the historic Ambler’s Texaco Gas Station, along with a dog parade and garage sales throughout town.
Odell: The historic Odell Station will offer “subway” souvenirs, Route 66 sodas and nostalgia for sale.
Pontiac: The city will host a Trunkin’ Treasure Sale in downtown along with a Bells in Motion concert at the Eagles Theater.
Chenoa: It will host a cruise-in, a semi show, flea market, inflatables for children, food and live music.
Lexington: Downtown will feature live music, family activities, vendors, food, a petting zoo and vintage vehicles.
Towanda: The town will host a Route 66 car show, a pin-up contest, and tours at the Historic Duncan Manor.
(Image of the Launching Pad Drive-In by John Larson via Facebook; image of the Smokey Bear balloon via Facebook)